How Metacritic rules the games industry

It puts every review in the world at your fingertips – but is Metacritic ruining videogames?

Ultimately, this is what Metacritic does best. A wide array of views and a homogenized score means that brilliant/awful games will get the praise or beatings they deserve. It’s the subtler distinctions that cause problems. It’s still better to rely on a source that you know and trust.

Critical Mess: The winners and losers of Metacritic

Bioshock

With sales figures slow to emerge, Wall Street seems to use Metacritic and similar sites as its barometer of early success. When Take 2’s undersea epic scored a near-perfect 97, the company’s shares soared 20 percent in a week.

Dead Space

Dismissed by most as Resident Evil in space, Dead Space took critics by surprise, bagging an impressive overall rating of 89 – partly thanks to several ‘perfect’ scores. The game went on to shift an estimated 470,000 copies during its first month on shelves - a figure analysts reckon exceeded EA’s expectations by 70,000.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2008

With barely a score under 80 from the UK press, the first incarnation of next-gen PES saw its score dragged down by the American press – who, in turn, claim that the UK scores for Madden aren’t relevant. “If a publication decides to review a game, it’s implicit that their critic has a degree of competence necessary” says Doyle.

Resistance 2

With its similar guns-n-aliens theme, Nathan Hale’s latest adventure was another casualty of the fanboy war that destroyed Gears 2 and LBP. With a critical rating of 87, its user-submitted score currently stands at a shameful 5.6.

Spider-Man 3

Scoring a dismal 50 in its PS2 incarnation - compared to 80 for Spidey 2 – the web-slinger’s poor showing sounded alarm bells for Activision, whose share price dropped five percent in the four days following the review being posted.

Who watches the watchmen?
Marc Doyle decides how each site is weighted on Metacritic. “I generally ask them to fill out a questionnaire describing their scoring system, how long they’ve been reviewing games, their publishing rate, traffic or circulation, and a host of other metrics. I place importance on the publication’s reputation for reliability, its respect among gamers and the industry, and its staff’s writing skill.”

Feb 4, 2009

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